5 Stars From Last Night’s #RAW – The Divas, Paul Heyman & The Vigilantes
WrestleMania 31 is now less than two weeks away, and everyone was on hand for last night’s Raw ahead of WWE’s biggest event. WrestleMania is far and away the hardest event for the WWE to promote, as not only is it a four hour show, but there are more superstars performing at WrestleMania than any other pay per view. Including HHH and Sting, Fast Lane had 22 superstars and Divas on the show. There are 17 superstars alone in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania, with more sure to be announced closer to the show. The WWE tries to get everyone they can on the show, which leads to a lot of short segments on the Raw’s and Smackdown’s leading up to the pay per view, which takes away from the build to some of the matches. Last night’s Raw had some peaks and some valleys, but ended on a high note that should have fans not only excited for next week, but also WrestleMania 31.
1. The Divas Division, Finally
Do you see what happens when the Divas are given a little time to work? This wasn’t a five star match, but it was solid, and most importantly, it furthered the storyline heading into Mania. The Bella Twins almost play two roles here: they are what Vince wants as a Diva, with super model looks and a culture crossing appeal, but to the hardcore fans, they are the anti Divas. Post Attitude Era fans are wrestling centric, and that goes for both the guys and the girls. Divas like Paige and AJ Lee resonate as ‘baby faces’ because they’re portrayed as focusing on wrestling first and everything else second. The Bella Twins, while they’ve improved in the ring, are the stars of Total Divas and the faces of the Divas division, but are still seen as models trying their hand at wrestling. The Bella’s vs. Paige and AJ is a perfect mix of styles and should be a fun match at Mania, and I’m glad they’re getting some time to not only tell a story but show that they can hang in the ring.
2. John Cena, Minus The ‘Balls’ Joke & Rusev, Of Course
Here’s my main beef with John Cena: he is not authentic. For all his Make-A-Wish sightings and t-shirt sales, he is the most inauthentic person on the WWE roster. He stands for hustle, loyalty and respect and wants kids to emulate him yet on back to back to Raw’s he has choked out a guy who didn’t give him what he wanted and then told that same guy that his manager/maybe girlfriend is the one who has the balls in their relationship. John Cena is supposed to be TV PG, and more than that, he’s supposed to the face of WWE’s TV PG movement. He is not The Rock, he is not Stone Cold, he is not HBK and he is not HHH. He is supposed to be a clean cut, Hulk Hogan esque superhero, yet when it benefits him, he can pull shit like he did on Rusev for the past two weeks. Do you ever remember Hulk Hogan asking someone if their girlfriend was the one with the balls in their relationship? No you do not, because that wasn’t what his character was all about. It was about being a role model to kids, taking your vitamins and saying your prayers. It’s supposed to be everything to the kids and lame to the adults, but Cena insists on trying to pander to both. His promo on Raw was great, fiery stuff, and as much as the USA vs. Russia angle is kind of burned out, at least Cena is showing some passion. Then Rusev got in the ring and Cena turned on the charm, asked him if his balls were with his girlfriend and all was lost. I still liked it because Rusev is great, and his written statement was so wonderful. I’ve mentioned it before, but speaking in broken English gives you leeway in your promos, and Rusev knows that, and executes it perfectly. What he’s saying doesn’t really have to make sense. What matters is that his message gets across, and that message is Russia>USA. When John Cena wins at Mania I’m going to cry for a thousand years.
3. Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman & Roman Reigns
This is more Paul Heyman and Lesnar than Reigns, but Reigns kept his promo short and sweet, and I’m glad he’s added something to the ‘Believe That’ line. ‘I can and I will’ is still kind of lame, but it’s progress, and his promos should be kept under two minutes at a maximum. Paul Heyman, on the other hand, should be given free REIGN over the show. He and Bray Wyatt are single handedly selling WrestleMania matches, and Heyman is at the absolute top of his game, which is saying something. He is simultaneously building up Reigns as a worthy competitor and Brock as an unbeatable champion. That may sound easy, but it’s something few other managers or superstars have mastered. I also love how Brock and Heyman have brought Lesnar’s real life contract dispute into the fray, because ignoring it would be silly in the internet age. We all know Lesnar walked out of Raw a few weeks ago, and we all know he’s undecided on his future. The WWE is the only company in the world that can use real life backstage details to enhance storylines, and I’m glad they’re doing that here. Also, Brock getting bleeped out because he threatened to ‘fuck up Roman Reigns’ was wonderful stuff.
4. Holy Hell, That IC Title Tag Match
If you’re taking bets at home, my money is on the IC Title ladder match to steal the show at Mania. I know that’s like saying Elizabeth Banks is pretty, but sometimes you need to get the obvious out of the way. It was clear from the beginning of this angle that this match would be the one that everyone would be talking about, and I’m glad the guys involved in last night’s tag match showed so much emotion and passion. The IC Title used to mean something, and it was a major building block on the road to the major championships. That prestige has been lost in recent years, but now you have six guys who are scratching and clawing their way back to the main event scene, and a major WrestleMania moment awaits them. The WWE needs to keep this momentum going after Mania if they want the IC title to be relevant again, but at the very least, they have right superstars in place to make that happen. Last night’s match was great, and if there’s one thing the WWE does well, it’s put on fantastic 6 man tag matches. It started a few years ago with The Shield and continued no matter what combination of guys are in the match. I liked the tease of fan favorites Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler, as well as the in sync outfits of Luke Harper and Dean Ambrose. This match will steal the show, and I have no clue who’s going to win at Mania. What I do know is that it won’t be R-Truth.
5. Randy Orton & Sting – The Vigilantes
When Seth Rollins unveiled his genius plan, you knew Sting was coming out, but that’s the best thing about Sting in 2015: you can see him coming from a mile away, but it’s still awesome. When the lights went out and the crow squawk echoed throughout the arena, the place ERUPTED for Sting. Also, how great does Sting look? He looks in better shape than most of his TNA run, and I’m glad the WWE is progressively upping his physicality. He got to whip a couple people with a bat last night, as well as deliver a double Stinger Splash and a Scorpion Death Drop. Sting/HHH isn’t going to wow anybody technically, but the storytelling and psychology of that match will be excellent. Another smart move by the WWE is lumping in Rollins/Orton with HHH/Sting as well as not having Rollins and Orton get any more physical than they did last week. You don’t want to show your hand before a big time Mania match, and although the brawl last week was a little much, I’m glad they scaled it back this week and let the rest of The Authority take the beat down. If Sting decides to stick around after WrestleMania, he and Randy Orton need to team up as The Vigilantes. I will not rest until that happens.